Arvo is to Afternoon as Tea is to Dinner

Every day, someone in the world googles the word arvo and lands on my blog. I know this for a fact because my trusted daily Wordpress statistics report tells me so.

This leads me to conclude that either one of two things is happening: 1) The same person is searching for arvo more than once a day using various key phrases; or 2) There’s people around the world like me who are just as confused with and intrigued by Australian English.

I’m pretty sure it’s number two, so first and foremost I’d like to give a big shout out to Aussies everywhere and say thanks. Truly, if it wasn’t for your diligent, consistent, and frequent usage of the word arvo, I may not have quite as many hits on my blog as I do today. So good onya mate! Keep that slang going.

Second, I figured since there’s so many of you out there like me who are in constant search of helpful guides to decoding Australian English and Aussie slang, why not write up a quick little list of tips?

Below are my personal (completely unconventional and politically incorrect) notes and methods which I’ve used over the past five years to help me navigate through the various new sounds, tones, and vocabulary I’ve encountered while living in Sydney. I’m sharing these top 50, hoping that they help you even a little bit and if anything, make you laugh. Here we go…

  1. Arvo means afternoon. It can sound like avo but only because of the Aussie accent. The “a” sound in arvo is pronounced like “ah” and the “r” is not pronounced so it sounds like “ahvo.” The “a” sound in avo is pronounced like “a” in apple.
  2. Avo means avocado. Not to be confused with arvo.
  3. Capp is short for cappuccino and is usually said to describe any type of coffee. For example: Wanna grab a capp? doesn’t simply mean Would you like to go out for a cappuccino? It could also just mean Would you like to go get a latte/flatwhite/etc.
  4. Cuppa means cup of tea.
  5. Tea means dinner. For example, your Australian friend might ask you, “Wanna come around for tea at 6?” Your friend isn’t inviting you over to his place just to drink a cup of tea, he means dinner.
  6. Ta means thanks or thank you.
  7. Have here or takeaway? is what that person is asking you when you’ve just ordered your food because no one says “Would you like it to go?”
  8. Exxy means expensive. It has nothing to do with sexy.
  9. Us is oftentimes used by individuals. For example, if you’re looking at a photo that makes you laugh and your Australian friend overhears you and wants to see it, he/she will say, “Show us?” instead of “Show me?” It’s grammatically incorrect but nevertheless, it’s what they say.
  10. A fair go is a fair or reasonable dealing. If someone is asking for a fair go, they are asking for you to give them a chance or an opportunity, preferably a decent or acceptable one.
  11. Having a go means to give something a try. You can have a go at It can also refer to insulting someone.
  12. Copper (sounds like “koppuh”) is a police officer not a type of metal.
  13. Schedule oftentimes sounds like “shedjool.” It means the same thing, just sounds different.
  14. Dirty on means to be angry or annoyed with something or someone.
  15. Crook means sick or ill.
  16. Kiwi is the term they use to describe a person from New Zealand or an adjective relating to New Zealand. It’s not the fruit.
  17. Fosh & chops is actually just fish & chips and you’re most likely speaking with a Kiwi.
  18. Chockers (sounds like “chokkuhz”) means very full. Instead of describing the bus as jam packed, they’d say it’s chockers or choc-a-bloc.
  19. Chockies means chocolates, not to be confused with chockers.
  20. Bickie or bikkie means biscuit or what us Americans call cookies.
  21. Chook means chicken or chicken meat, but can also refer to a woman.
  22. Take the piss means to make fun of or tease.
  23. Chuck a sickie means call into work sick, especially dishonestly.
  24. Dunny means a toilet (like saying the can or the throne)
  25. On the piss means on a drinking spree. In other words, if someone was on the piss they’d be at a bar or pub and not in a dunny. And being pissed means being drunk.
  26. Blind means very drunk.
  27. Esky is what they call coolers or portable containers for keeping food and drinks cool. Usually used for barbecues and picnics.
  28. Whinge means to whine, grumble, or complain.
  29. Pom, pommie, pommy refers to a person from England and is typically coupled with the adjective whinging (from whinge above). For example, Aussies like to refer to British people as “typical whinging Poms.”
  30. Rock up means to arrive, often without invitation or prior notice.
  31. Westie is a derogatory term describing a person who comes from the western suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne.
  32. Wog another derogatory term usually referring to a person with Italian, Lebanese, Greek, or similar background.
  33. Seppo is short for septic tank which means Yank which is an American.
  34. Bottle-o refers to a bottle shop (what we’d call a liquor store).
  35. Suss means suspect or suspicious. It’s used the same way we use the word shady.
  36. Suss out means to check out or investigate.
  37. Sweet FA means nothing or almost nothing (an abbreviation of sweet f*ck all); they’d say “I’m doing sweet FA this weekend.”
  38. Bludger refers to a person who takes advantage, especially of the welfare system. It also refers to someone who is simply lazy.
  39. Tucker means food and oftentimes sounds like “tukka.”
  40. Shout means to treat somebody by paying for their share of something. For instance, if you’re out with friends and each of you are taking turns buying rounds of drinks, someone will usually say, “My shout!” referring to the fact that he’ll pick up the tab for that round.
  41. Spewing means to be extremely angry or irritated. It doesn’t mean vomiting or throwing up.
  42. Sook or sooky-la-la  means a timid person, coward, or cry baby.
  43. Wanker means someone who is full of himself. We’d say jerk or prick.
  44. Cack up means the same thing as laugh or crack up.
  45. Boofhead is a playful, light-hearted insult that means a dim-witted or foolish person.
  46. Bugger (sounds like “buggah”) can be an expression of annoyance. For example, if an Aussie locked his keys in his car by accident, he’d probably say, “Bugger!”
  47. Rooted means broken or tired. Just depends on what context it’s being used in.
  48. Devo means devastated.
  49. To rug up means to wear warm clothes for cold weather.
  50. Hey Bruce! is just a term of endearment that Aussies call anybody. Even if they know the person’s name, they still call them “Bruce.”  

Are you an expat or new to Australia? What’s a common word or phrase you frequently encounter?


9 thoughts on “Arvo is to Afternoon as Tea is to Dinner

  1. We went to the Newcastle Knights vs Melbourne Storm match last night. When the Storm were kicking, my husband yelled out, “Chewie on ya boot!” Chewie as in gum. Also you can add lollies for candy, and canteen is the cafeteria at school. My husband and I had a good giggle with this list. Ps, I too am a Northern Californian, Monterey specifically.

    1. Hahaha! I’d never even heard of that one ’til now. Thanks for sharing that, along with the others! Hopefully this ongoing list will help expats and tourists everywhere adapt to becoming Aussie too.
      (Oh and heyyy…hollaback NorCal!) 🙂

  2. Snagger – sausage
    Sanger – sandwich
    Bub – baby
    Yew – like yelling “yeahhhh!”
    Hoon – multi use, normally someone driving unsafely/stunting/revving an engine
    “Up the [team name]!” – instead of “Go [team name]! – also “Carn” instead of “come on”
    Rippa – good/exciting one (like, “hope your day is a rippa” or “she’s a rippa”)
    Dardy/dards – cool – retro slang revived by Gen Y?
    Straya – Australia, often referring to a subset of (sometimes bogan) Aussie behavior
    Bogan – comparable to “country” or, insultingly “hick”
    F-ing oath – I totally agree
    Flat out – really busy (like, “I’ve been working flat out”)

    It took me a solid eight weeks to figure out what people were on about.

  3. This week’s classic is “I didn’t come here to fuck spiders”, in response to some self-evident or obvious question. I only encountered it for the first time this week.

    Also note that some Oz slang was actually invented by Barry Humphries as part of the Barry MacKenzie films.

    It is always nice that the yanks are willing to learn proper English.

  4. hey hi, as an aussie this is hilarious and super informative tbh, as in, i had no idea most of these werent common outside of aus 😂
    just a note, while cuppa does mean tea (the drink, not the meal haha), it also means coffee. so if ya ask someone if they want a cuppa, you’ve got to ask them then if they want a cuppa tea or a cuppa coffee! 😄
    don’t forget ‘servo’! (its where you put petrol in your car, or what i think yanks call a gas station!? yep, thats another thing, we call it petrol, not gas!)
    another nother thing, you’ll find that each of the states have slightly different slang, so for example, while you’ll go to a milkbar to get snacks and basic food supplies in the eastern states, you’ll go to a deli in the south!
    one thing that kinda irks me, i have literally never heard an aussie say “throw a shrimp on the barbie” (at least here in south aus) mainly because we dont call them shrimps, we call them prawns!
    strayan slang is lots of fun!
    come over for a snag(sausage) on the barbie(BBQ), mate!

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